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Learning to Walk Day 4, August 31

August 31, 2022
Cross and landscape, La Clauze

An interlude: news from home. My daughter sent me photo last night saying, “post this on your blog, Mom.” It was a photo labeled “Family Dinner” with her and several friends. Getting a photo that I can share, and seeing the smile on her face is the best gift a Mom could get from her 18 year old who just started college. So here it is:

My daughter is second from the right. They seem to having so much fun!

Now for Day 4: My longest day yet, 20 k (14 miles on my Apple Watch). I thought it was going to be a relatively flat day, since we were walking across the Margeride Plateau, but I was surprised by the long uphill walk out of Saugues, and another long uphill walk through the woods before arriving at Le Domaine Sauvage. They weren’t the steep climb of yesterday, but fairly long uphills none the less. But I made it! My feet and legs are sore, but so far I remain blister-free, thanks to Injinji toe sock liners under Darn Tough socks. Best investment in socks I ever made.

This area is known as the Gevaudan and remains very sparsely populated. Centuries ago it was known for beasts and brigands. It was easy to imagine both as I walked through the forest alone! I just happened to be in-between walkers and had the forest to myself. The Beast of Gevaudan is one of the symbols/mascots of this area. From 1764-68 the beast terrorized the area, killing about 60 peasants. Maybe it was a super-wolf or a lynx—the images of it that you see all over the area look like a big, bad wolf from the fairytales. A peasant finally killed it and took the carcass to the king as proof.

Domaine le Sauvage, where I am staying tonight, is an isolated gite, in the middle of this high plateau surrounded by forest. It is quite famous and a popular stop along the Chemin Le Puy. It is centuries old and has gone through various incarnations and owners, but has been a refuge for pilgrims off and on. It is also associated with the Knights Templar—one of their headquarters as they provided protection for the region. When I came out of the forest, finally on a flat path, I could see it more than a mile in the distance. Such a welcome sight! As it must have been for pilgrims centuries ago.

After taking care of the daily chores upon arrival: showering, washing and hanging out clothes, the most refreshing thing of the day is cold beer. I normally drink very little, but under these circumstances a beer is the best taste in the world.

I keep thinking I should be having profound spiritual insights. Isn’t that what a pilgrimage is all about? But actually, what seems to be happening is just emptying my mind out. During the day, I am mostly just focused on putting one foot in front of the other, then pausing every once in a while to soak in the beauty I am walking through. It is fun to pass other pilgrims I have stayed with along the path. There is a couple walking with their dog, Sonny. We stayed at the same gite last night. And there a lot of other familiar faces. And a farewell meeting with my roommate from last night who I probably won’t see again. She stopped about 8 km before I did today, and is only walking until Friday. It was fun to see her one last time as I passed her gite and she was outside enjoying a drink. I am not getting as familiar with other pilgrims as I would if I spoke French. I did meet up with a couple from Colorado today, and we are staying in the same place tonight. I don’t expect people to speak English when I am in France, but it is nice to meet up with Americans and Australians now and then and be able to have a conversation in a language in which we are both fluent!

So, no great spiritual revelations. I’m not sure there will be any. But emptying my head of the stress and worry that has filled the last six years since the former guy was elected, and all the transitions we have been through at church, and COVID, is very welcome. I know the outside world is still there. I am checking the headlines every day or so, and keeping up with Heather Cox Richardson’s posts—I figure that’s probably giving me most of what I need to know. I know there are still shootings happening every day in the US. I know the war in Ukraine and the fear over the nuclear plant is still there (thought I haven’t read the latest on that), but I am enjoying the luxury of escaping that for the most part. I wish everyone could have this experience of entering a different world, where your only task is to walk every day, where you are met with hospitality both on the path and off it and at the end of the day when you arrive at your destination, where you just have to put one foot in front of the other and you realize that it is possible for people to exist in peace, to support and encourage and greet one another as fellow human beings along the same path. I guess that’s my profundity for the day. Now let’s see if I can get some photos to upload.

From Saugues this morning. The day started lovely, cool and overcast. It became sunny late in the morning.
Pointing the way.
Do you see the Great Pyrenees guarding the sheep? There were two in this field. I took this just after he had stood up and woofed at me, letting me know these were his sheep, and I was not to come any closer. I didn’t. What a good dog. Doing just what he’s supposed to.
Saugues in the distance.
Sonny walking with his people. Another good dog. He is so happy to be out walking for hours.
A stretch of walking through the woods in the morning.
A lot of the day looked like this, landscape wise, that is, the sun burned off the clouds by 11 or so, and even though there was a nice breeze, the sun was hot.
Tower balanced on a boulder in La Clauze.
Lunch. My knife made in Auvergne that I bought in Le Puy. Cheese I bought at this farm where I was eating. She said it would last 9 or 10 days, simply wrapped in the paper she gave me (NO plastic!!), bread, of course, and a date loaf thing, that was shaped like a potato, sold by a man who had set up by the trail yesterday. It is a base of dates with dried fruit and hazelnuts. Yummy. I needed a break from ham and cheese sandwiches.
This scene made me think of Bilbo Baggins, “The road goes ever on.”
I decided not to take the detour to see this famous wall of bells on the church in Chanereilles (I think I spelled that right). It is a well-photographed site on this Chemin, but my day was long enough without the detour. So I took a long distance photo instead.
Into the woods for the last long climb of the day.
It’s finally flat!!!
You can see the change in elevation by the fact that it’s all pine trees now.
Almost there.
Home for the night in the distance.

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5 Comments
  1. Barbara Mossman permalink

    I am so impressed with everything you say and with the reasons you needed to make this journey. Wish I too could empty my head of the worries about our democracy that have multiplied these past six years. PEACE!

  2. Patricia Decker permalink

    I would be such a bad pilgrim as I’m mostly obsessed with your stories of delicious food and adorable dogs. But so happy to be on this journey with you, all be it from afar. Love the photos – so great to have one of Em!

  3. Kathryn Eastman permalink

    Beverly! What beautiful posting you sharing with us. Thank you so much. Bon Chemin Dear Pilgrim ❤️

  4. I’m so glad you’re doing this…I am benefiting just sitting here looking into my monitor and taking slower breaths and smiling . . .

  5. Sarah-Jane permalink

    Such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. Enjoying following your journey.

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